Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Importance of Actually Tracking Your Workouts

I get probed on a daily basis about working out, food choices, the best way to train X muscle etc.  I always answer them all to the best of my ability and if I do not know the answer I find the answer from an actual reputable source (ie. not Men’s Health or Muscle and Fitness) and get back to them.  The majority of the questions revolve around the gym (for some reason that is where most people believe your six-pack is made).  Some typical questions are How can I deadlift more?  Why isn't my bench-press improving?  Why can't I seem to get any stronger?  My response to these types of questions is usually the same.  Show me your progress.  Show me your workout log
and I will evaluate it to see if there are any changes that you can make to get you back on track.  The problem is they have no idea if they have been making progress or not.  Most of the time they can't even recall how much they lifted the day prior.  I rarely find someone that can provide me with even a piece of scrap paper with some numbers written on it.  Seriously?  How do you expect to improve in anything if you don't track your progress?  You wouldn't embark on a cruise across the Pacific and not check your GPS every once in a while would you?  If you didn't how would you know you were even headed in the right direction?  Probably a bad analogy but you get the picture.  
Then I get the guys that think they have seen improvement because they have gone from benching 205x8, to 215x6 the next week and then 225x4 the week after. Congratulations bro, your calculated 1RM went from 255 to 250 then 245, so technically (on paper) you got weaker. If that was your goal than great success!

A log from an old workout.  A ! means I did more reps than last workout, a : ( means I lifted less.  I rarely see a : (  Your log doesn't have to make sense to anyone but you.  Be creative.  Make up a new language if you want.  JUST LOG!!!

Tracking your progress is a crucial part of your workout.  If someone were to ask me that question I would pull out my notebook and show them my progress since I began logging my workouts (about 3 years now).  I can show them that in October I was only squatting 185x5 and now I am at 225x8.  I can show them that my DL has consistently gone up an average of 10 lbs every 3 weeks since I started.  I can show them that I hit a little plateau with weighted chin-ups so I switched up when they were performed in my workout and they started improving again.  I could go on and on.  Tracking my workouts has provided me with a way to make sure what I am doing is actually working and to help justify when I think a change needs to be made.  

My log, transferred to excel and show in a graph.  I don't expect you guys to nerd out like me and do this but it's an excellent was of visualizing your progress.  See that plateau I was talking about?  See the crazy increase in squats? 

On a side note, I know at least one of you saw the graph and is wondering why I am only tracking Squats, Dead lifts, Chin-Ups and Bench-Press.  The simple answer to that is because they are the main lifts that you will see progress in as you get stronger.  They are also easy lifts to calculate your 1RM (1 rep max).

If you like most people in the gym, you do not track anything you do.  That means 100% of your efforts at the gym are not being quantified.  Why?  Are you too afraid to see progress?  Are you too afraid to NOT see progress?  How hard is it to carry a notebook to the gym with you and write down what you just did?  Even a scrap piece of paper or sticky note will do.  There are even apps that track your workouts for you.  Please track your workouts.

Another comment that I receive fairly regularly is this “I stopped lifting as much once my buddy stopped going to the gym.  Now I have no one to push me and no one to compete with.”  Well guess what?  Start logging your workouts and you will have someone to compete with.  YOURSELF!  You should constantly be trying to get one more rep or add 5 more lbs from last week.  Example: I look down at my book and see for the last 2 weeks I have Dead lifted 335 for 4 reps.  You better believe I am doing everything I physically can to get that 5th rep the next week.  I psych myself up for the workout because I have a chance to improve from last week.  You should never have to rely on someone else to push you during your workout because you are always competing with last week’s version of you.  Be better than last week’s version of you or at least be able to prove that you aren't getting weaker.  Yes, its good to have someone to lift with you in the gym but you will quickly learn that you can't count on other people anyways.  Be your own competition, be your own lifting partner and don't let yourself down.